Gameweek 7 of the 2023/24 Premier League saw, perhaps, the most controversial VAR incident to date.
Spurs took on Liverpool in a game littered with controversy, with incidents still being discussed at length in the days following.
The major talking point came midway through the first half when Luis Diaz was put through on goal by Mo Salah. The Colombian found the net, with a superb finish across Guglielmo Vicario, but the goal was ruled out as the assistant referee adjudged Diaz to be offside.
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That was only the start of the controversy, however, with the incident being referred to VAR, who bizarrely didn’t intervene and indeed, seemed to take no time at all to back the offside call. Diaz seemed, to the naked eye at least, to be well onside and there was general confusion all round.
The PGMOL released a statement following the game, acknowledging the error and assuring fans that a full investigation would take place. In the days since the incident it has been revealed there was a major miscommunication between the officials on the pitch and the VAR room, which has exacerbated the situation further.
Ex-referee, Dermot Gallagher, had his say following the incident and he seemed to be as frustrated as everyone else over the incident.
“There’s a lack of focus, lack of judgement by the VAR. They didn’t check what the on-field decision was and made a decision based on what he thought, rather than what he was told”, he said.
“In a situation like this, I was stunned on Saturday. It’s the toughest day I’ve ever had at work on a match day. You’re trying to explain to people what’s happened – and second-guess what’s happened, because they’re in a different location to myself. That’s what I can’t process.”
The fallout from the incident is sure to run and run, with Liverpool releasing a statement saying they ‘will explore the range of options available, given the clear need for escalation and resolution’ and the team of officials that led to the error being stood down from other duties over the weekend.
There were several other incidents that took place over the weekend, in what was a terrible few days for VAR.
Premier League table without VAR errors
Source: Ref Watch, Sky Sports
Note: Our table has been compiled on the basis that penalties that should have been awarded would subsequently have been scored. Over the past seven seasons, 78% of Premier League penalties taken have been scored.
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Other notable VAR controversies from Gameweek 7
Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool – Curtis Jones’ red card
Verdict: Whilst there wasn’t intent, the challenge was reckless; correct decision
There was further controversy in North London, with Jones’ seeing red for a challenge on Yves Bissouma. Jones’ foot flicked off the ball and the Liverpool caught Bissouma with studs showing high above the ankle. Whilst some have said it shouldn’t be a red card, we’re erring on the side that the official got this one right, although it’s not a clear cut decision.
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Brentford — Brentford penalty shout #1
Verdict: Correct decision
Brentford claim a penalty twice in the same run of play, with The Bees claiming a handball from both Nicolas Dominguez and Willy Boly. The first incident looks more clear cut, with the ball seemingly not striking Dominguez’s arm, whilst the second saw Boly hit by the ball rather than an intentional action, or unnatural body position.
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Brentford – Brentford penalty shout #2
Verdict: Incorrect decision
Yoane Wissa closes down Matt Turner in the Nottingham Forest penalty area. The Brentford striker gets there first and nips in ahead of Turner, who catches Wissa with an attempted clearance. Wissa goes down but no penalty is awarded. The striker was definitely impeded though and a penalty should’ve been given.
Aston Villa 6-1 Brighton – Ollie Watkins’ first goal
Verdict: Correct decision
Watkins fires into the net but Brighton appeal, saying Nicolo Zaniolo was in an offside position and interfering with the goalkeepers view of the shot. Jason Steele, the Brighton stopper, seemed to be unimpeded though and the goal rightfully stands.